Vaping has become a national health concern. All students at the University of Wisconsin—Stout received a health alert email on Friday, Oct. 4 from Dr. Erin Hall-Rhoades, physician and medical director, regarding the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products. In this email, UW-Stout’s Student Health Center is advising students to stay away from all vaping products, especially those containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), with the recent severe pulmonary disease outbreak.
The email said, “The outbreak is being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. The Food and Drug Administration and state and local officials.”
Dr. Hall-Rhodes informed the students on what is known, what is unknown, and what is recommended with vaping.
18 deaths have now been confirmed as of Oct. 1. There are now 1,080 reported lung injury cases related to vaping. Many have also reported a history of THC use.
The specific chemical(s) causing the lung injuries are still unknown and no single substance has been linked to every lung injury case.
The email recommends refraining from use of vaping products, but to continue with e-cigarettes rather than switching to cigarettes. If someone recently used a vaping product and is experiencing symptoms such as a cough, fever, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting like the ones reported in the outbreak, it is recommended to contact a healthcare provider immediately.
Olivia Satterlee, a junior majoring in human development and family studies, said that she never thought vaping would hurt anyone so soon. She felt like it took awhile for cigarettes to hurt anyone, but health complications from vaping happened very quickly.
Satterlee said, “I was just at the doctors today and they had given me a whole sheet about the vaping epidemic. I’m sure that it is causing some sort of lung disease.” Satterlee heard that it was just THC filled vape cartridges that are causing the problem, but she is sure normal vaping products could be at fault too.
She thinks these cases only represent one illness but as time goes on there will be many more illnesses that are linked to vaping. She said if vaping can cause one problem, she’s sure they can cause others.
Saterlee said that it is hard to tell what is really causing the problem because younger people put so many different things into their body that could hurt them, and vaping is just one of those problems.
Claire Elrick, a freshman majoring in graphic design, said, “I think that there are a lot of other problems in the U.S. that are causing death to Americans and there are under 20 deaths regarding vaping. I’m not saying vaping isn’t a problem, but I feel that there is a lot of other problems the government could be focusing on that have a much higher death count.” Elrick said she didn’t know much about what has been going on with vaping until campus had sent out the health alert email.
Elrick thinks that this issue is caused not only by THC, but by all vaping products in general. “I have a hunch that Juul’s [are] a huge reason as to why people get addicted to nicotine and vaping in general. Juul’s get the younger people addicted to nicotine and then they get reliant on vaping,” she said, “I also think that there is more information coming out that gives medical people the ability to determine the cause of the illnesses.”
“I think that with THC in the picture, people are more likely to use it and take advantage of it. Especially high school and college aged people are using THC because ‘everyone else is using it’ and [they] don’t realize the long-term effects it has on a person,” said Elrick.
Izabel Revier, a sophomore majoring in early childhood education and minoring in english, said that she believes vaping is a real problem and that she doesn’t know if it can actually be solved.
Revier said, “ I don’t think that it’s a new issue; I just think that because it involves the younger generation, it’s [being] talked about more. Our generation tends to be more vocal.”
She said THC seems to be the main cause, but she still thinks that there is a risk to every substance. “I think that people want to blame something, and THC just happens to have a risk factor. I think that no matter what comes from research on e-cigarettes, people will still use them no matter what. People know the risks but tend to go against their better judgement,” said Revier.
Ross Jeseritz, a junior majoring in professional communications and emerging media, said that problems with vaping doesn’t really surprise him. He said, “People used to think cigarettes were harmless and now we know they’re not. I figured something would happen like that to vaping too.”
Jeseritz said he does not think these cases only represent one illness, and there are a lot of different negative health effects that can eventually come from vaping.
He said the issue is just from vaping products and that it has nothing to do with THC. “THC is harmless, it comes from a plant. It most likely has to do with the chemicals in vape juice and the vape pens themselves,” said Jeseritz. He said vaping wasn’t originally intended for THC use so he thinks it gives a bad name to marijuana, a substance he believes is already seen in a negative light.
Jeseritz said, “I don’t think it matters what you’re smoking. I think it’s the way vapes are used and manufactured that is the problem, like when people first started smoking cigarettes. I think there’s a lot that no one knows about them. I think until we find out the truth it’s best to stay away.”
Kailee Bjerke, a senior majoring in professional communications & emerging media, said, “I know that it is leading to death, and [that] they don’t know what specific ‘vape’ [is] causing it. Some of the pods and vape juices were defective.” She said she isn’t apart of the vape culture and doesn’t really keep up with it.
Grace Schramka, a senior majoring in graphic design & interactive media, said that it’s really tragic to see everything going on with vaping recently. “It’s really upsetting to see that there’s nearly 20 deaths due to this, and I hope none of my friends have to deal with it and I hope—even—that it doesn’t happen to me,” said Schramka.
She said, “From what I know, there’s a lot of conflicting information going around about [vaping and] what’s causing it, the safety of [vaping], etc. What I do know, is that many of these are linked to ‘black market’ dangerous carts and many are from THC carts.”
Schramka thinks the problem is being caused by THC cartridges, whether that be THC pens or from Juul pods refilled with THC. She said, “From what I’ve read and heard, most of the victim’s carts came from black markets with alternative, unapproved chemicals.”
Schramka said, “I believe that whatever chemicals are in black market carts are to blame—and the ingredients are so vague we don’t know exactly what.” She doesn’t think these chemicals are causing one specific illness, and that it is a variety of illnesses because with unknown chemicals we see unknown diseases and results. “…We don’t really know how many different diseases people can catch from these dangerous carts,” she said.
“THC is not the issue, it’s the chemicals used to separate the THC from the marijuana and that’s where the issue stems from. THC is being held up as the cause of the epidemic which is unfair, because on its own the effects are not to this extreme degree. It’s the chemicals used in black market [or] unknown carts that should be to blame,” said Schramka.
Schramka said, “If we really want this to stop, carts need to be legalized and regulated so they can be obtained from a reliable source. We can know that the people using them are [being] safe, and people don’t have to rely on unsafe black market carts. We need research and regulation on the THC side, because while THC itself isn’t the culprit, those are the carts commonly bought black market.”
Student Health Services at UW-Stout is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. In case of an emergency, call 911, go to the nearest hospital or contact University Police at (715)-232-2222.